Photo Courtesy: Idaho Steelheads
Jay Beagle, right, celebrates the 2007 Kelly Cup with fellow future NHL'er, Francis Wathier
Monday, May 07, 2012
When the surprising Los Angeles Kings eliminated the no. 2 seed in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues, they also eliminated one of two remaining former Idaho Steelheads in the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
With Blues forward BJ Crombeen out of the mix, that leaves only Washington’s Jay Beagle with an opportunity to see his name etched onto one of the most-famous title trophies in sports.
Beagle, the 26-year-old center, has gotten a lot of media attention for his increased ice time in the playoffs. Or, perhaps more to the point, the fact that he’s been on the ice more often than NHL superstar Alexander Ovechkin. He has a goal and an assist in 11 postseason games after logging four goals in 41 games for the Capitals during the regular season. The 41 games is an NHL-high for Beagle, who began his professional career in 2007 with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads.
He signed with Idaho on March 23, 2007, after wrapping up his sophomore season at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. He made his pro debut that night against the Alaska Aces and finished the regular season with ten points (two goals, eight assists) in eight games. He had his first professional three-point night a week later, factoring in all three Idaho goals (one goal, two assists) in a 4-3 shootout loss against Long Beach. He would pick up another three-point night on April 4, scoring the game-tying and assisting on the game-winning goal in Idaho’s 4-3 win over Bakersfield.
He also assisted on Idaho’s first goal in that game – scored by, incidentally, BJ Crombeen.
“Those were my two roommates,” defenseman Kory Scoran remembered with a laugh. “Guess I picked the wrong room.”
On April 5, Beagle was named as one of 20 skaters on Idaho’s ECHL Playoff roster. He went on to appear in 18 of Idaho’s 22 playoff games that season as the Steelheads ousted Stockton, Las Vegas, and Alaska en route to the team’s second appearance in the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Finals against the Dayton Bombers.
“He was so strong on the puck, so protective, you couldn’t bump him off,” Scoran said of his first impressions of Beagle. “You knew he had the potential, the size, the speed. You knew his career was going to happen beyond the ECHL.”
Beagle would only appear in one of the Kelly Cup Finals games, a Game 1 loss to the Bombers, before Idaho ran off four straight wins to win the Kelly Cup championship. He was one of four players on that Idaho team who would go on to appear in the NHL – Beagle, Crombeen, Francis Wathier, and Greg Rallo. A fifth, Jeremy Yablonski, was not on the playoff roster but had previously appeared in the NHL.
“We’ve had so many good players through here, it’s crazy,” Scoran continued. “Like Jay, he wasn’t here long but now he’s a regular in the NHL.”
His short stay in Idaho wouldn’t be the only time Beagle would hoist championship hardware at the professional level. Twice, you’ll find Beagle’s name on the AHL’s Calder Cup championship trophy. He was a key piece of Hershey’s championship puzzle in both 2009 and 2010, when the Bears won back-to-back AHL titles. He made his NHL debut with Washington during the 2008-09 season and has shuttled back and forth between Hershey, the team’s AHL affiliate, and the NHL ever since, making his biggest step toward a permanent NHL career this season with his 41 regular-season games played.
Can he add his name to yet another championship trophy, this one among the most-coveted spots in all of sport, by being on a team to win the Stanley Cup? His Washington Capitals are still alive and Beagle’s play as a defensive centerman has earned raves and all kinds of attention from a national audience on NBC Sports and its cable affiliates (CNBC, NBC Sports Channel).
Beagle is one of 16 former Steelheads to advance to the NHL after playing in Idaho: Beagle, Wathier, Rallo, Crombeen, Yablonski, Gavin Morgan, Ben Ondrus, Warren Peters, Dan Ellis, Zenon Konopka, Tom Wandell, Matt Climie, Aaron Gagnon, Matt Zaba, Richard Clune, and Richard Bachman. Also, Mark Olver, son of longtime Steelheads head coach John Olver, has spent parts of the past two seasons with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.